Two warriors canter hard in the foreground of John Clymer’s Return from the Hunt, protecting the flanks of a train of carts piled high with meat. Behind them, a large hunting party of Native Americans traverses the crest of the bank above a deep river valley. The one wearing a buffalo horn bonnet appears to be uttering a call or cry, a joyful signal to the village that sustenance is on its way.
John Clymer’s journey from commercial artist to America’s chronicler of the Fur Trade and Mountain Man Era is itself a tale of exploration and adventure. In 1960, Clymer abandoned a successful and lucrative career and decided that he would try his hand at painting the historical West, a subject that fascinated him. He and his wife began to trace what was left of the early Trails–the Oregon, Bozeman, Chisholm, Overland Stage, Pony Express–as well as the path Lewis and Clark had taken, making close studies of the terrain, dress, manners, horses, dwellings, weapons and lives of the men and women, trappers and Indians of the early frontier days. Back in his studio, Clymer poured his findings onto his canvases, investing them with incredible energy.
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